Welcome to Kitchen Classroom, where America’s Test Kitchen Kids is sharing a weekly set of kid-tested and kid-approved recipes, hands-on experiments, and activities, each paired with a suggestion for bringing learning to life in the kitchen.
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This week, kids can learn all about berries while baking up a summery Blueberry Cobbler, transform almonds and rice into creamy Horchata, make Rice Noodle Bowls with Peanut Sauce courtesy of a recipe designed for young chefs ages 5 to 8, and discover which cheese makes the gooiest grilled cheese sandwich in a stretchy science experiment.
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Here’s what’s cooking for the week of August 17th through August 23rd.
This cobbler is an easy fruit dessert for young chefs to bake, featuring a stir-together blueberry filling topped with buttery biscuits. It’s the perfect way to celebrate the peak-season berries of late summer!
[GET THE RECIPE]
What You’ll Need
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1½ teaspoons grated lemon zest plus 1 tablespoon juice, zested and squeezed from 1 lemon, measured separately
¾ cup (5¼ ounces) sugar
6 cups (30 ounces) blueberries
1½ cups (7½ ounces) all-purpose flour
1½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
¾ cup (6 ounces) buttermilk
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Vegetable oil spray
If your family participated in Week 11 of Kitchen Classroom and baked Blueberry Muffins, ask kids if they remember observing blueberries, and what they found inside of them. If you didn’t do that activity together, then have kids set a few extra blueberries aside before they start cooking this recipe. While the cobbler is baking and cooling in steps 8 and 9, ask kids to observe the extra blueberries: What do they notice about their outsides? Then, have kids cut the berries in half across their equator (or do this for them if they’re not quite ready to use a knife) and observe the insides. Can they find any blueberry seeds?
Ask kids if they can remember or give their best guess for what the definition of a “berry” is. Tell or remind kids that in our everyday conversations, “berries” are small fruits that grow on a bush. But, if you ask a plant scientist “What’s a berry?” they will give you a different answer: A berry is a fruit that grows from one flower and usually contains several seeds inside.
Blueberries fit this scientific definition (whew!), so scientists call them “true berries.” But raspberries and strawberries? Not berries. A single raspberry is actually made up of lots of tiny, round fruits, each with its own seed inside. Strawberries also contain many teeny, individual fruits, each with their own yellow seed on the outside. If you have any strawberries or raspberries on hand, have kids examine those up close, too.
With this definition in mind (fruits that grow from one flower, have a skin on the outside, and more than one seed on the inside), challenge kids to do a scavenger hunt of your refrigerator, the produce section at the grocery store, or your local farmers’ market to see how many other “true berries” they can find. Some fruits that meet this definition are: blueberries, cranberries, bananas, kiwis, grapes, gooseberries, currants, persimmons, guava, citrus (like lemons, limes, and oranges) and melons (like cantaloupe, honeydew, and watermelon). Some fruits that we often think of as vegetables (because we use them in savory recipes) are also berries, including avocados, tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, cucumbers, summer squash (like zucchini or yellow squash), and winter squash (like acorn squash, butternut squash, or pumpkins).
Sweet, creamy horchata is a refreshing beverage, ideal for sipping on a hot summer day. Kids will learn about the science of osmosis as they soak rice and almonds in water before blending and draining their horchata, and they’ll take a trip through time to learn more about the long history of this popular drink. A little evaporated milk to finish things off makes this horchata extra creamy. Just pour over ice and don’t forget an extra sprinkle of cinnamon!
[GET THE RECIPE]
What You’ll Need
4½ cups (36 ounces) water
1¼ cups (6¼ ounces) blanched whole almonds
½ cup (3½ ounces) sugar
⅓ cup long-grain white rice
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup (9 ounces) evaporated milk
Science (Properties of Matter)
The first step in making horchata is to soak almonds and rice in water for 12 to 24 hours. (Set aside a few grains of rice and a few almonds before beginning this recipe.) Challenge kids to think of why we would soak these ingredients for such a long time. Ask them what happens when other objects are submerged in water for a long period of time—how do they change? Have them make a prediction about how they think the rice and almonds might change after their overnight soak.
Once the rice and almonds are finished soaking set aside a few grains of soaked rice and a few soaked almonds before proceeding with the recipe. While kids are sipping their horchata, have them examine the dry rice and almonds and the soaked rice and almonds. (If you have a magnifying glass, this is a great place to use it!) Ask kids what they notice about the unsoaked versus soaked ingredients:
- How did soaking overnight change these ingredients?
- Do they look different? Do they feel different/have a different texture?
Explain that almonds and rice are porous, which means they are covered in tiny holes—so tiny we can’t see them without a microscope, but they are big enough for liquids, such as water, to pass through. When the almonds and rice are submerged in water, water moves from outside the almonds and rice (where there’s lots of it) to inside the almonds and rice (where there’s less of it). This process is called osmosis. The water is absorbed by starch inside the rice and almonds (kind of like how a sponge absorbs water), making them softer and easier to blend.
Take It Further
Social Studies (Food History)
Horchata is one kind of agua fresca, which means “fresh water” in Spanish. Aguas frescas are a variety of drinks made by combining fruits, grains, seeds, or flowers with sugar and water. They are enjoyed all over Mexico and Latin America, where you might see big, beehive-shaped glass jars (called vitroleros) filled with different colorful aguas frescas. They’re a refreshing way to beat the heat and there are lots of ways to make them that use many different ingredients and flavors.
Horchata was first made with a different grain—barley—over 2,000 years ago, in Ancient Rome. This ancient recipe made its way east through Europe and North Africa, and was adapted to use many different types of grains and nuts. It wasn’t until the 1500s that it was made in Mexico, where it became extremely popular!
Rice Noodle Bowls with Peanut Sauce
Let your young chef help prepare dinner using this recipe from My First Cookbook, designed especially for kids ages 5 to 8. They can top their rice noodle bowls with crushed peanuts, torn basil, and/or shredded carrots to add even more texture and flavor to this vegetarian dish.
[GET THE RECIPE]
What You’ll Need
12 ounces (¼-inch-wide) rice noodles
1½ cups frozen edamame
½ cup creamy peanut butter
3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
3 tablespoons lime juice, squeezed from 2 limes
1 tablespoon honey
¼ cup hot water, plus extra for cooking noodles
2 carrots, peeled and shredded (about 1 cup)
⅓ cup dry-roasted peanuts, chopped
8 fresh Thai basil or sweet Italian basil leaves, torn into pieces
Social Studies (World Cultures)
Before cooking the recipe, tell your young chef that this recipe contains edamame. Ask them if they have heard of edamame and what they know about it. Tell kids that edamame are young soybeans, and that they contain lots of protein. Mature soybeans, which are used to make soy milk and tofu, are hard and dry, while edamame are green and soft. Edamame were first grown in China over 3,000 ago, and became popular throughout Asia, especially in Japan. In fact, the word edamame is Japanese for “beans on a branch.”
Ask kids to look at the edamame up close. What do they notice? The frozen edamame we call for in this recipe are beans which have already been shelled. Tell your young chef that edamame grow inside of a pod that we do not eat. Next time you are at the grocery store, see if you can find edamame that are still in the pod (you’ll often see these in the freezer section) and compare it to the edamame beans. Challenge your young chef to look in the pantry and refrigerator to see if they can find any other foods made from soybeans. (Examples include tofu, soy milk, soy sauce, tamari, miso, tempeh, and bean paste.)
Take It Further
Literacy (Reading Comprehension, Making Connections)
Everybody Brings Noodles, written by Norah Dooley and illustrated by Peter J. Thornton, introduces young readers to noodles of all kinds. If you have a copy of the book, read it together. If not, you can click here to enjoy a read-aloud video of the book, or borrow it from your local library’s collection. After reading or listening to the story, ask kids:
- What kinds of food do you notice everybody is bringing to the block party? (Noodles)
- Are all the noodles the same, or are they different? (Different kinds of noodles) Have you tried any of these noodles before?
- What kind of sauce did Carrie help her mom make for the party? (Pesto sauce)
- What does Carrie tell Mrs. Max she is unhappy about? (That she is not performing in the talent show)
- What does Mrs. Max tell her that makes her feel better? (Everybody is doing their part for the party; some people need to be the audience)
- Who does Madame Bleu say a special thank you to at the end of the talent show? (Carrie) Why? (Because her talent is talking to everybody and bringing them together)
- What special food would you bring to a summer party in your neighborhood to share with your family and friends?
The Science of Stretchy Cheese
It’s a (cheesy) truth universally acknowledged that some cheeses stretch when they’re melted, while others simply don’t. Kids can stretch their minds to find out why—and make two grilled cheese sandwiches—in this food science experiment. You can swap Monterey Jack, Swiss, or even mild or sharp cheddar for the extra-sharp cheddar, just don’t use low-fat or preshredded cheese here, it won’t work in this experiment.
[GET THE EXPERIMENT]
What You’ll Need
4 slices hearty white or wheat sandwich bread
½ cup shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese (2 ounces)
½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese (2 ounces)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
As kids work through this experiment, help them hone their observation skills by using these questions:
- What do you notice about the cheese as it cooks in the grilled cheese sandwiches?
- What words would you use to describe your mozzarella cheese pull? What words would you use to describe your cheddar cheese pull?
- If you could tell other kids one thing about what you learned in this experiment, what would it be?
Kids will likely discover the mozzarella cheese is a stretchy superstar when it’s melted, while extra-sharp cheddar doesn’t want to stretch much at all—though it makes up for its lack of stretchability in the flavor department!
Why is mozzarella so good at stretching? It also comes down to the way the cheese is made. To make mozzarella, cheese curds are stretched and pulled over and over again. All that stretching causes tiny proteins in the cheese to make their way into very straight lines. When the mozzarella heats up, those straight lines of protein loosen up and you can pull them into very long strings.
Most cheeses, like cheddar, aren’t stretched. Instead, their cheese curds are pressed together by hand or using a machine. That means their proteins don’t form straight lines—they’re more jumbled together. When these cheeses melt, their proteins flow in lots of different directions, so they don’t stretch as much.
The “Food for Thought” section at the bottom of the experiment page has a kid-friendly explanation of the cheesemaking process as well as diagrams of how cheese curds are then shaped and formed into mozzarella and cheddar.
On sale from August 1st through August 31, 2020, the September edition of the Young Chefs’ Club celebrates COOKIES! Kids can bake five different cookie recipes, from a Giant Chocolate Chip Cookie to Chewy Peanut Butter Cookies to Glazed Sugar Cookies they can cut out (using cookie cutters in their box) and decorate. They’ll learn about the science of sugar in an edible—cookie-based!—experiment and enjoy some sugar-free time putting together a cookie-themed jigsaw puzzle.
Catching up on Kitchen Classroom? Find previous weeks using the links below:
- Kitchen Classroom: Week 22
- Kitchen Classroom: Week 21
- Kitchen Classroom: Week 20
- Kitchen Classroom: Week 19
- Kitchen Classroom: Week 18
- Kitchen Classroom: Week 17
- Kitchen Classroom: Week 16
- Kitchen Classroom: Week 15
- Kitchen Classroom: Week 14
- Kitchen Classroom: Week 13
- Kitchen Classroom: Week 12
- Kitchen Classroom: Week 11
- Kitchen Classroom: Week 10
- Kitchen Classroom: Week 9
- Kitchen Classroom: Week 8
- Kitchen Classroom: Week 7
- Kitchen Classroom: Week 6
- Kitchen Classroom: Week 5
- Kitchen Classroom: Week 4
- Kitchen Classroom: Week 3
- Kitchen Classroom: Week 2
- Kitchen Classroom: Week 1